Call Of Duty Black Ops 4: Blackout Battle Royale Open Beta Impressions

We dropped into Call of Duty's battle royale mode over the weekend. Here's what you can expect from the fragfest come October.

After releasing a trailer for Blackout just over a week ago, Treyarch finally let the wider world in on the mode's beta over the past two weekends. 

Along with Rapture Rejects and Fractured Lands, Blackout has easily been one of the most anticipated Battle Royale entries of the year. With the Battle.net beta on PC finally launching last Friday, we finally got a taste of what to expect in this new twist on a familiar recipe.

If you didn't get a chance to play this weekend, here's what you need to know about the battle royale mode coming with Black Ops 4 on October 12. 

Battle Royale Mode, Call Of Duty Style

A lot of players weren't really sure what to expect from Blackout mode based on some of the early news trickling out from Treyarch and Activision. Would it be a wacky, wild time like the more colorful and outlandish BR games? Are they trying to emulate the realistic survival shooters but just add in some high tech equipment and vehicles?

After playing the open PC beta, its clear Blackout mode is much more PUBG than Fortnite, which is probably bad news for the former considering their dwindling player count. There's no harvesting resources or building structures, and not much in the way of silliness either.

Many of the COD standbys are here, however, like flash bangs and some familiar weapons. If you think you've mastered Call Of Duty's multiplayer, get ready to re-learn your strategy, as there are significantly increased health and armor from what you'd expect. There won't be any instances where you can knife a guy and he goes down in one hit, and headshots aren't an instant kill if the other player has full armor.

Beloved locations from across the series are built into the extended map size, including the infamous Nuketown. Sadly, that area is on the far edge, so it's usually one of the first to be swallowed by the shrinking circle.

Much like Fortnite, your strategy can change radically based on where you landed, from tense vertical office building firefights to open landscape sniping.

The speed of the game essentially splits the difference between Fortnite and PUBG. Battles are hectic and frantic if a group lands in the same area, but firefights will slow down as the herd thins due to the slow shrinking of the circle. I'd expect some tweaks on the circle speed by release. Battles do tend to last longer in Blackout than other BR games, however, due to the higher health and prevalence of armor.

Since Black Ops 4 is all about the multiplayer, Treyarch made the decision to have each mode collide in certain ways, which adds a little something extra. For instance, zombies appear in some matches of Blackout mode for a further challenge (or for using to your advantage if you lure another player into them).

In most ways, this is a very standard Battle Royale experience. You jump off the aircraft and pick a landing site, hoping to find loot quickly before getting into a brutal firefight.

If you've played any BR game, you know exactly what to expect. The wingsuit feels more responsive and has better control on the way down than many other games, however.

Equipment and weapons are currently everywhere, with dozens of options in larger buildings. It's extremely unlikely you'd ever be without a weapon immediately in the first structure you enter.

Loot is currently so plentiful that it seems item counts will likely be reduced in the full version, as inventory management becomes an issue.

A Fistful Of Guns

Besides all the typical shotguns, assault rifles, and sniper options, Blackout mode features an array of high tech gadgets to utilize.

The sensor dart is nifty, letting you know where nearby enemies are located, but personally, I had the most fun with the grapple gun.

Like with most crazy gadgets, you can accidentally kill yourself by attaching to the wrong surface, as I learned early on. That actually ended up being my first ignominious end, not at the hands of a homicidal fellow player, but by misjudging my grapple.

In my very first round, I didn't take into account the speed of the collapsing circle and ended up taking a bunch of damage while sprinting into the safe zone.

I made it with -- and I kid you not -- exactly one health remaining. Even a single stray bullet would mean my imminent demise, so I figured the right thing to do was grapple to the top of a building and wait for a wounded player to pass by below. It should be easy to kill someone low on health and loot all their items, right?

Sadly, I grappled onto the exact wrong edge of a building and ended up falling off instead of landing safely on the ledge. I took at least one point of damage from falling, and that was the end of my first Blackout match. Hey, at least I made it into the top 10!

 This is me, at exactly 1 health, just barely escaping the circle

The Bottom Line

Visually, Blackout mode isn't up to the par with other COD games, but I can see how that would be necessary to have such a huge map with so many players on at the same time. Sadly, it also lacks the vibrant colors and cartoon style of either Realm Royale or Fortnite.

In terms of controls, the scheme is basically split evenly between standard Call Of Duty style (aim down sights, vault through windows, etc.) and the typical Battle Royale options (pick up items, open/close doors, hold key to heal, etc.)

It's a smooth transition once you wrap your head around the fact that you are playing two types of games mashed into one. Other than the graphical downgrade, it didn't ever feel like one style was sacrificed in favor of the other. If you're used to Call Of Duty's gameplay, you'll be at home, and if you're used to PUBG or Fortnite's gameplay, you'll still get the hang of it right away.

In its beta form, Blackout was quite a bit buggier than expected. I get that betas exist specifically to iron out those kinks, but I was surprised that a AAA game due to launch next month still has so many issues.

While the frame rate was stable, on the PC version I had multiple crashes during my evening of play. Hopefully, that will be fixed by the Black Ops 4 October 12th release date. 

Bugs aside, if you love the Call Of Duty gameplay and like the Battle Royale genre, this is a no-brainer. Obviously, you'll dig this and want to pick it up on release day. If you didn't care for how the COD games played before this entry, then adding BR probably won't convince you to jump in.

Want to know what else is in store with the other game modes? Check out our impressions of the other multiplayer Black Ops 4 betas here! Not sold on this year's COD entry yet? Take a look at our definitive pre-release guide for everything you need to know about Black Ops 4.

Published Sep. 18th 2018

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